AUSTRALIA’S largest natural marine observatory in Busselton is a step closer with the announcement of $13 million funding from the Australian Government Regional Growth Fund last Friday to Busselton Jetty Inc (BJI) for the Australian Underwater Discovery Centre (AUDC).
Federal Member for Forrest Nola Marino made the announcement just after Jetstar announced direct flights from Melbourne to Busselton, bringing 60,000 Eastern States visitors each year to the region.
Mrs Marino said the AUDC would be a world class offering and would help secure the Jetty’s visitor appeal well into the future, adding more layers to the Jetty experience.
“Visitors, businesses, tour groups and locals will all benefit from this investment in what is a world class tourism destination here in our South West,” she said.
“Construction alone will create nearly 200 jobs and operations will create nearly 2,500 jobs over coming years as cafes, hotels, service stations, retail stores and the like all prosper, returning some $200m in economic benefit to WA.”
BJI Chair Jenny Sheehan said the current Underwater Observatory, with 34% international visitation, would reach capacity in 2022 and have to start turning people away because it can only cater for 44 people per hour on tour, whereas the new AUDC would cater for 140 people per hour.
“BJI started looking at ways to meet visitor demand in 2017 and after completing two Feasibility Studies and a Market Research Study, determined that expanding our current unique Underwater Observatory was the best way to grow the business and also help us meet our environmental goals” said Mrs Sheehan.
“This project will include enhancing the artificial reef at the end of the Jetty, increasing the marine life and ultimately ensuring the sustainability of the Busselton Jetty for another 100 years, meaning it can remain a community recreation facility and WA’s major tourist attraction simultaneously.”
The elliptical AUDC will be the biggest and best in the world featuring the largest windows in the world, new underwater habitats, underwater dining and function centre with underwater lighting, high tech exhibitions, educational spaces and environmental learning areas.
Busselton Jetty CEO Lisa Shreeve said BJI is working with several Universities and research organisations to investigate the current UWO becoming a Marine Research Field Station.
The iconic Busselton Jetty and Underwater Observatory are already catalysts to encouraging more than 500,000 visitors per year to visit Western Australia because they are one of a kind and act as the hub and spoke model, dispersing tourists throughout the region.
The AUDC build total cost is $30m, with $20m now secured and announcements expected soon about the final $10m.
Project construction is due to commence in January 2021 and be completed by March 2022 with the AUDC expected to be floated in as the current UWO was, but installed at the western end of the Jetty.